Peace and Security in Africa (Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel) - Security Council VTC Briefing

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18-May-2021 02:07:42
Sahel force vital in fight against extremist armed groups, Peace Operations Chief tells Security Council, calling for increased funding.

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Amid a worsening security situation marked by mounting terrorist attacks, troops deployed to stem the tide of violent extremism in Africa’s Sahel region require more predictable funding and broader international support, the United Nations senior peace operations official told the Security Council during a videoconference meeting today.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who is the Organization’s Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in the Sahel region (document S/2021/442), noting that the fight against armed groups has intensified since the Council’s last debate on the topic in late 2020. In that context, he described the joint force first deployed in 2017 by the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — as a vital part of the security response to extremist armed groups, and joined his voice to others in the international community calling for a revamped funding structure.

“It is essential that [the joint force] receives the assistance it requires to carry out its mandated tasks,” he said, adding that the current support model leaves little room for flexibility. Recalling that the United Nations recently carried out an assessment of the support provided to the joint force by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), at the Council’s request, he said it found the predictability of funding to be a source of concern. The assessment highlighted both progress made and challenges remaining, while touching on the recent activities of the joint force.

Outlining those, he reported that the regional force continues to enhance its operational capabilities in recent months. Its Operation Sama 2 continued into early 2021, and Sama 3 — buoyed by an additional battalion deployed from Chad — was launched in March. Going forward, strengthening the joint force’s police component will be an important step towards improving oversight over military operations, as well as linking them to State-building, human rights compliance and justice sector reform efforts. While some critical tasks remain pending, he welcomed the force’s demonstration of commitment, alongside the Governments of Chad and Niger, to investigating and prosecuting serious allegations of sexual violence reportedly committed by members of the eighth Chadian battalion deployed in Niger.

While the joint force — alongside national troops, the French-led Operation Barkhane and MINUSMA — has made strides in the fight against terrorism, he emphasized that much remains to be done and the region’s security and humanitarian situation remains dire. In that vein, he welcomed the strengthened coordination mechanisms proposed by the Coalition for the Sahel, which will allow all international partners to take advantage of their comparative strengths and work together more effectively in the areas of development, good governance, humanitarian aid and security. “Faced with the situation in the Sahel, the international community must be motivated by a shared responsibility to act […] in a spirit of solidarity with the populations of the region,” he concluded.

Oumarou Namata, Commander of the G5 Sahel joint force, also briefed the Council, providing a snapshot of the operational activities of his troops. Describing considerable progress registered by the “purely Sahel-owned” force since its establishment four years ago, he said many serious challenges remain — including rapidly escalating security threats and the joint force’s own including its own highly complex operational structure. Since January, in particular, the region has seen a rise in extremely violent incidents and a worsening of intercommunal violence, which is too often exploited by armed groups.

He nevertheless outlined significant progress achieved by the joint force in recent months, which includes efforts to harmonize its future operations with the efforts of national armies, MINUSMA and other partners. It has neutralized hundreds of terrorists and disorganized the logistical capacity of many regional armed groups, capturing and arresting 79 people in the last year alone. He also cited the development of a robust posture and format; increased effectiveness and better harmonization of operations; implementation of a standing operational procedure on internal investigations; and increased ownership of the force’s activities.

Additionally, he said, the joint force is working to harmonize its Human Rights Compliance Framework with those of its European partners. “Progress is being made, yes, slowly […] in improving [the force’s] activities,” he said, calling for additional resources and more streamlining of international support. Other major operational challenges relate to questions of long-term financing. While significant support has been pledged by international partners, the actual rate of fulfilment has been slow. In that regard, he called for the establishment of a United Nations support office to provide the joint force with logistical, operational, practical and strategic support, to be funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions from Member States.

Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees (Egypt), briefing the Council in his capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, recalled that the latter met in April to discuss peace and development trends in the Sahel region. It called for greater coordination among security, development and humanitarian actors, aimed at ensuring effective programming and resource mobilization, including through the development and use of a shared information-management system. He pointed out that the Commission has been supporting peacebuilding efforts in Burkina Faso — at the request and under the leadership of the Government — mobilizing over $400 million from Commission members to support the country’s peacebuilding priorities in 2020 alone.

Encouraging the United Nations and its partners to build on that approach in other Sahel countries, he went on to support the call — made during a summit in N’Djamena, Chad, on 16 February — for a “civilian surge” that would complement military efforts and increase development, humanitarian and good governance initiatives across the region. He also called for additional measures to empower women and youth to undertake leadership roles in peacebuilding and strengthen their role in governance structures, as well as for more structural investment in response to environmental degradation and climate change. In addition, he voiced support for the leadership of regional actors and organizations in confronting and countering terrorists and other organized criminal groups in the Sahel region.

As Council members took the floor, many expressed strong support for the work of the G5 Sahel joint force and condemned the spiking terrorist attacks across the region. While many highlighted the support their countries have provided, they diverged on the question of using United Nations assessed contributions to fund the joint force, with some describing bilateral support as a more appropriate channel. Still others called upon the countries leading the force to accelerate their implementation of human rights standards and due diligence policies, which they said are even more crucial amid the rapidly escalating violence.

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